The Norwegian Nobel Committee today announced its decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.
Both laureates have made contributions to focusing attention on, and combating, war crimes. Denis Mukwege has devoted his life to defending victims, while Nadia Murad is a witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others. Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.
Dr Mukwege is a physician who assists victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Dr Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war.
Ms Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, where she lived with her family in the remote village of Kocho. In August 2014 the Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal, systematic attack on the villages of the Sinjar district, aimed at exterminating the Yazidi population. Ms Murad is just one of an estimated 3 000 Yazidi girls and women who were victims of rape and other abuses by the IS army. Following her escape, she chose to speak openly about what she had suffered. In 2016, at the age of just 23, she was named the UN’s first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.
Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told journalist Stig Arild Pettersen that these awards will highlight what victims experience. “If we want people to say 'no more war', we have to show how ugly, how destructive, and how brutal it is,” Ms Reiss-Andersen said.
Ms Murad encouraged the global community to take a stand at a recent conference on the Victims Ethnic and Religious Violence. “Rebuilding and protecting minorities is a choice,” she said. “We can choose to protect minorities and ensure that extinction is not an outcome for any people or culture. I call on all nations to join us and commit to taking these steps. We must realize that uniting, working together, protecting minorities and rebuilding, is the only way to heal after genocidal campaigns. If we fail to do so, we make genocide possible.”
This year marks a decade since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 (2008), which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security.
Photos: UN Photo/Manuel Elias, UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe, UN Photo/Rick Bajornas, UN Photo/Marie Frechon